Slavery or child labor at the age of six or seven?

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I can’t hold it any more… I have to tell somebody. What a shame…in front of the whole class that Joseph Sir had to say it to Leelavathi Teacher…. It was just an end of term examination.. not the year ending examination.

Yesterday was Mathematics and today we have Social Studies. Each kid had the Black slate in front. Everybody was busy minding their own business of writing the answers of the questions written on the Black Board. Our slates were submitted after each exam & graded by the Teacher then itself.

It was very quiet. Occasional scratching of slate pencil on the slate or a small cough or movement of feet on the cement floor, shuffling of clothes when the kids moved/shifted on their seat broke that quietness in between.

Joseph Sir was the supervising Teacher. He was sitting in front of his Teacher’s desk. He was entering the marks in the register. He was our Mathematics Teacher. Leelavathi Teacher came inside the class room to pick up something from Joseph Sir.

I was looking at the Black Board for the next question. Accidentally my eyes met with Joseph Sir’s eyes. As if burnt, I looked down. I know that I didn’t do well in Mathematics. So I didn’t want to face him. What a shame!

“Leelavathi Teacher, Do you know what Gigi got for Mathematics?”

There was a hidden mockery in his voice.

“Oh my God! Please …please don’t say…”  I closed my eyes & prayed. “Why is he so loud! “

Class became so quiet… no more sounds…not even the scratching of slate pencil.. nobody was breathing even… Everybody was waiting for the next words coming out of Joseph Sir’s mouth.

“It is a big Elephant Egg” everybody laughed loudly..

I could see the laughing face of Leelavathi Teacher even if I was looking down.

Leelavathi Teacher liked me. I knew that. My God.. all her impression about smartness had gone down the drain. I wished the Earth would split open & swallow me then & there itself. But nothing happened. My eyes welled up. I wiped my eyes with the end of my frock, tried my best to do it secretly, so that nobody would know that I was crying. Never in my life, I felt that much humiliation.

All the way back home, I was thinking & visualizing what happened in the class. What would I do? What would happen when my father know about it. I couldn’t tell anybody in my house about this…. I would die suffocating in my thoughts. I felt like somebody putting a dagger through my heart and piercing it again and again…

Oh my God I had no friends. I had nobody to confide my fear & guilt. I brought shame for my father and for my family as well by getting zero for Mathematics examination. I could have waited till the class Teacher gave the Progress Card. Now I had to suffer much earlier than that.

I had to confide it to somebody.  Otherwise I would die. My heart was aching so badly, I thought it was going to break.

I can’t hold it any more… I have to tell somebody. What a shame…

My Twin brothers are six years older than me. I reached a decision.  I could trust them. If I told them not to tell anybody, they would keep my secret as long I wanted. They were trustworthy. That’s what brothers were for. I could trust them. So I told them about what happened in the class. They promised not to tell anybody.

“ See, they are my brothers, they love me, they are trustworthy, they are everything a sister can dream of…”  My stress level decreased tremendously once I shared my secret with my brothers.

Everything went as I wished.

Next morning, I was just waking up; the first order came from my youngest twin brother,

“Go & bring a coffee for me from kitchen”

Second twin chimed, “for me too”

I was the youngest, pampered by everybody and so spoiled too.

My answer was fast, “I can’t”

They repeated the orders again and I repeated my answer louder than before.

“Ediiiiiiiiiiiii      Do you want us to say ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ”.

I wished to drop dead that very second.

“They were not that loud, so nobody would have overheard. Thank God! “ I thought.

I marched to the kitchen in a run and brought coffee for both of them. There was a look of supremacy on the faces of my Twin brothers. There after I had to run a lot of errands like that for both of them, like fetching anything they want from anywhere in the house. I obeyed each & every order I got from them. I started blaming myself for trusting these two culprits. But still my first word was always, “can’t” Then they had to remind me the letter “Z”. Literally,  I became a slave to both of them.

One day I was sitting near my Mother, Twins were around.

They gave me an order to fetch something. As usual I said, “can’t”

They made the sound, “ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ”

I jumped up fast, to do what they asked. My mother heard it and knew there was something fishy going on. So she asked them, “What is ZZZZZZZZZZ?”

Not a word came out from their mouths.

“Hm, they kept their word.” I felt relieved.  But my mother felt as if they were hiding something from her.

She questioned them again. Both chorused “Nothing!”

She turned to me.. “You, tell me, what is going on? “

I said innocently, “nothing”.

She held me closely and asked me again, “you better tell me or ….”

I looked at her eyes & knew that she was deadly serious about the whole thing and there was no way I could let go off lying to the teeth.

I cried first, then I told her everything.. She listened patiently.

I was expecting immediate scolding or caning, but instead she held me in her hands and told me, “It is all right. It is not a big deal… If you were weak in Mathematics this time, you will study harder for next time and become the first in your class.”

Those words were the sweetest things my Mother had ever told me.

All my shame, ache and the slavery…. all lifted off me and I felt what is peace of mind after a three weeks’ agony for the first time.

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